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What Is An Air Purifier and Do They Work?

An air purifier or air cleaner is simply a device that removes contaminants from the air in an indoor space.

The types of contaminants an air purifier can catch or neutralize include:

  • Mold spores
  • Pollen
  • Bacteria
  • Dust
  • Smoke
  • And more

Of course, that’s just a basic definition of what an air purifier does. In this blog, we’ll discuss air purifiers in more detail by looking at the following topics:

  • Portable vs whole-home air purifiers
  • Types of whole-home air purifiers
  • How to choose the right air purifier for you

Want a quote to install an air purifier in your home?

Our comfort specialists can recommend the perfect air purifier for your home and give upfront pricing on the cost to install it.

Portable vs whole-home air purifiers

Some air purifiers are meant to clean the air in a single room or small space. These are called “portable” or “room” air purification systems.

You can usually buy a portable air purifier at your local home improvement store and install it yourself. In most cases, installing a portable unit simply requires you plugging in the unit to an outlet and it will start purifying right away.

You may consider a portable air purifier if:

  • You live in a small apartment
  • You just want to purify the air in a single room of your house
  • You are doing a home improvement project in a specific area (like painting a room)

Of course, the biggest downside to portable air purifiers is that they only clean the air of a single room, and the reality is that most of us spend our time at home in several rooms while at home. For most homeowners, we recommend going with a whole-home air purification system.

Just like its name suggests, a whole-home air purification system works to clean the air in every room in your home. A whole-home air purifier is installed in your home’s HVAC system to ensure that every room has conditioned, clean air.

Benefits of a whole-home air purifier include:

  • Clean air in every room in your home
  • Quieter operation compared to a portable unit
  • The purifier is hidden from view, tucked away inside your HVAC system
  • Improved efficiency and longer lifespan of your HVAC system

Compared to a portable unit, the only downside to a whole-home air purifier is cost. Since it is installed into your home’s HVAC system, it will need to be installed by a professional, which raises the price.

Let’s take a look at the different kinds of whole-home air purifiers.

Types of whole-home air purifiers

Below are the 4 main types of whole-home air purifiers:

  1. HEPA air filter
  2. Activated carbon filter
  3. Ionic air purifier
  4. UV air purifier

We’ll explain how each of these air purifiers work below.

HEPA air filter

Your home’s HVAC system already has an air filter that catches larger airborne particles such as dirt and dust. However, a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter can catch ultrafine particles such as bacteria and even viruses.

HEPA filters are made of interlaced glass fibers that create a web-like maze. As contaminants pass through the glass maze, they get stuck on the fibers, which prevents them from entering your airstream.

Since HEPA filters are larger than standard air filters, a professional may have to make some minor modifications to your ductwork in order to accommodate the HEPA filter.

Activated carbon filter

An activated carbon purifier consists of carbon packets that are installed in an air filter or filtration system. As polluted air passes over the carbon, pollutants are trapped inside the pores of the carbon through a chemical process called adsorption.

Activated carbon filters work well with HEPA filters, and they are often sold together. The activated carbon does a good job of catching larger particles, which helps the HEPA filter last longer and perform better.

Ionic air purifier

An ionic air purifier is “filter-less,” which makes it different from the other air purifiers we’ve mentioned so far.

Instead of using a filter to capture pollutants, an ionic air sends out electrically charged ions into the air surrounding it. As pollutants pass through the air surrounding the purifier, they bond with these electrically charged ions, making them too heavy to stay in the air. Instead of circulating in your home’s airstream, these weighed-down pollutants simply fall and remain on a collection plate.

Because the collection plate gets dirty with pollutants, it will need to be cleaned periodically. However, you can also purchase a self-cleaning ionic air purifier that requires no regular maintenance.

UV air purifier

A UV (ultraviolet) air purifier uses UV-C light to impair the DNA of pollutants, rendering them harmless. Often, a UV light air purifier is installed in the air handler of your AC system. This allows the UV light to purify all of the air that passes through it and keep your AC free of mold.

UV lights are commonly sold with other types of air purification systems, such as a HEPA filter. Together, the two types of air purifiers do a thorough job of cleaning your home’s air.

How to choose the right air purifier for you

To find the right air purifier for your home, we recommend consulting with an air quality specialist.

During an air quality in-home visit, a comfort specialist can test your home to find what contaminants are present and recommend a whole-home air purifier (or a combination of purifiers) to boost your home’s indoor air quality.

Want a whole-home air purifier in your Tucson home?

Our comfort specialists can recommend the perfect purifier based on your family’s air quality needs and budget. Learn more about what to expect when you hire us by visiting our air purification service page.

We also offer whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers and duct cleaning services, which can also improve your home’s overall air quality.